PoW Christmas greeting card to people of Edinburgh resurfaces after 101 years

A crowd of female protestors hold a placard which reads 'Help Our Prisoners in Germany', circa 1914. Picture: GETTY
A crowd of female protestors hold a placard which reads 'Help Our Prisoners in Germany', circa 1914. Picture: GETTY
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Held in a German prison camp in 1915, you would have thought festive greetings could not have been further from the mind of the inmates.

But Andrew Healey Hislop from Edinburgh was determined his message would get through to his home city all the way from the Ruhleben internmet camp.

The New Year greeting appeared in the Evening News 101 years ago. Picture: contributed

The New Year greeting appeared in the Evening News 101 years ago. Picture: contributed

After months inside the camp, which was around six miles to the west of Berlin, he decided to design a special letter to send to the Lord of Provost and the people of Edinburgh in December 1915 to wish them a Merry Christmas. And incredibly, even as the Great War raged, it made it to its destination in time.

Mr Hislop, who was a professional artist, had been touring galleries in Germany in 1914 when he was captured as a civilian prisoner.

He managed to track down several other people in the camp who were also from Edinburgh, including J Edgar G Burgoyne who was the deputy headteacher of the Royal High School in the 1950s, who also signed the hand-crafted design.

And today marks 101 years since the Evening News first published a copy of it.

It reads: “The compliments of the season to the Lord 
Provost, council magistrates and citizens of Edinburgh. From the Edinburgh Civil Prisoners of war Ruhleben, Germany.”

Jens Hislop, Mr Hislop’s nephew, who lives in Haworth, West Yorkshire, has preserved the frail greeting in his family home for several years. He also told of how his uncle managed to send a Christmas card in 1916, to his brother, who was fighting in the trenches at the time.

The picture on it was an original painting of the Promenade at Ruhleben.

He said: “I think it’s amazing these items were sent from Germany to Scotland while a bitter and savage war was raging.

“This prompts the question, did my uncle try to send anything else? For example, Christmas greetings for 1917 and 1918, while still at Ruhleben?

“None that I know of, certainly, there is nothing more in the family archives. Maybe he did, but nothing came through. We will never know.”

Ruhleben internment camp was a civilian detention camp during the First World War that was located in Ruhleben, a former Vorwerk manor.

It was originally a harness racing track that was laid out north of the Berlin-Hamburg Railway line in 1908.

The crowds that were detained there included male citizens of the Allied Powers living, studying, working or on holiday in Germany during the outbreak.

Mr Hislop added: “The greeting has been preserved, my father would always keep a hold of all the things we inherited.

“I just thought now as an appropriate time to highlight it.

“It’s been exactly 101 years today since it first appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News.”